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Defense of our Nation’s Food Supply – What is USDA Doing and What Can You do to Help?

National Preparedness Month is a good opportunity to reflect on progress towards ensuring the security of our Nation’s food supply.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers defense of the food and agriculture sector critical– all the way from farm to fork. Some animal or plant diseases could have drastic consequences on our economy – yet another reason it’s important that we continue our efforts to improve food and agricultural emergency preparedness and response.

You probably are familiar with many of the USDA agencies whose animal, plant and or food inspection programs have touched your life at some point whether traveling or simply buying meat or poultry sold in grocery stores.

For example, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) enhance agricultural security through numerous programs.  These programs range from inspecting native and foreign agricultural products, to evaluating food system vulnerabilities,  to maintaining laboratory networks that can rapidly identify diseases and pests.  To illustrate, some of our efforts over the last year include: Read more »

NRCS Works with Partners to Help Endangered Dusky Gopher Frog

Julie Grogan-Brown and Al Garner, both with NRCS, meet a gopher tortoise, one of the threatened species that call longleaf pine forests home.

Julie Grogan-Brown and Al Garner, both with NRCS, meet a gopher tortoise, one of the threatened species that call longleaf pine forests home.

Recently I got an intimate tour of a longleaf pine forest, a rapidly vanishing Southeastern ecosystem that is home to one-of-a-kind wildlife. Longleaf pines once dominated the landscape of coastal Mississippi, but deforestation and urbanization have decreased both these forests and the unique plants and animals that call them home. Read more »

Forest Service Waives Fees for National Public Lands Day, Sept. 24

River Clean Up Crew on Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania

River Clean Up Crew on Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania

Just one day after the start of autumn,  the Forest Service is waiving fees at hundreds of recreation sites across the country on Saturday, Sept. 24 in recognition of Public Lands Day. Read more »

With USDA Assistance, an Arizona Ranch Family Finds Savings “Blowing in the Wind”

The folks in the small community of Taylor, Arizona, have a reputation for creative problem solving. Back in the late 1800’s local blacksmith Joseph Hancock came up with an ingenious solution for celebrating the Fourth of July in the tiny town. The tradition then was for towns to fire their cannons to celebrate Independence Day.

But the Town of Taylor was without a cannon. So Hancock offered up two historic anvils and the tradition of “firing the anvil” became an annual event for the town. At dawn every Fourth of July, the Jennings Band members climb onto a flatbed truck and ride up and down the neighborhoods in Taylor, stopping on street corners while the anvil is fired and patriotic music is played for the sleepy residents. Read more »

Mobilizing Rural Communities: Partnerships and Outreach in Montana

Cross posted from the White House blog:

This week, I served as keynote speaker for a special conference in Great Falls, Montana, convened by Rural Dynamics Incorporated.  The theme of the conference  was “Mobilizing Rural Communities” and included participants representing a host of private, public, and non-profit participants.  It has been less than three months since President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the first White House Rural Council.  The Great Falls conference provided an opportunity to connect with many great folks from the Northern Plains Region, who are working on a daily basis on local projects and local partnerships to further the economic development and vitality of rural areas.

The group was very interested to learn more about the work of the White House Rural Council.  We discussed President Obama’s priority of ensuring that rural areas have additional opportunities for economic investment and available working capital.  We also discussed the need for innovation in the areas of high-speed Internet, renewable energy opportunities, as well as enhancements in education and health care.  Topics involving natural resource-related business enterprises, public works, and forestry – all key focus areas for the White House Rural Council—were also discussed. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: How America Creates Jobs

Last week, I visited the Port of Miami to see firsthand how job creators in this country are making, innovating and exporting ‘Made in America’ goods.

The port was busy with container ships on-loading goods for export.  But if the Port doesn’t make some changes to their infrastructure, they risk losing out on business from the new, larger container ships that will start flowing through the Panama Canal in 2014.

So they are beginning work on a major transportation tunnel and a deep-dredge project that will provide jobs for construction workers today, and keep the Port of Miami among the busiest in the nation. Read more »